Barrier: The Seam of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


In this moving account of the barriers between Israelis and Palestinians, leading Israeli journalist Isabel Kershner traces the route of the wall Israel is building and reports its profound effects on people living on both sides. Kershner provides rich and insightful portraits of Israeli settlers feeling abandoned on the wrong side of the fence; Palestinian farmers angry at being cut off from their lands and groves; Arab families split up in a town now divided by the barrier; and Israelis protesting that it is an...

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In this moving account of the barriers between Israelis and Palestinians, leading Israeli journalist Isabel Kershner traces the route of the wall Israel is building and reports its profound effects on people living on both sides. Kershner provides rich and insightful portraits of Israeli settlers feeling abandoned on the wrong side of the fence; Palestinian farmers angry at being cut off from their lands and groves; Arab families split up in a town now divided by the barrier; and Israelis protesting that it is an obstacle to peace. Exploring the reasons for the barrier and its political and moral implications, Kershner focuses on the people committed to their causes. As the future relationship between Israelis and Palestinians is being determined, this important book addresses one of the most controversial solutions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Isabel Kershner turns a complicated issue into a gripping story without sacrificing the nuances or the complexities. Barrier is an elegantly written and eloquent page turner."

— Bob Simon, 60 Minutes Correspondent

"Isabel Kershner has provided a distinctly human perspective on the Israeli security barrier. She weaves a compelling story, wonderfully written and told largely through the eyes of individual Israelis and Palestinians. But this is more than only the story of the barrier and how it is seen; it is also an explanation of the conflict and the pain it continues to impose on both sides. The Israeli quest for security and acceptance and the Palestinian yearning for dignity and freedom emerge unmistakably in this very moving book."

— Dennis Ross, chief Middle East peace negotiator for Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, author of The Missing Peace

"Nothing expresses the folly of the two peoples as this thing does. When viewed close-up, the barrier turns into a tall hideous curtain, still ugly even if made from cement rather than iron, swallowing cities and hopes. As with most walls in history, fear may have created the impulse to build it; but greed and other human faults determine its path. Isabel Kershner's book is not about the concrete and wire fences; it is about those who created them, the bombers as well as the mighty occupiers; but most importantly, it is about those victimized by its unwelcome and destructive presence. We hear their voices and feel their pain. More than that, Kershner's storytelling digs deeper into the strategic implications, making her book useful to experts as well as all concerned with the Middle East"

— Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah

"Barrier is superb. Extraordinarily balanced and perceptive, it is a sympathetic but unflinchingly honest portrayal of two peoples irreversibly entangled in their own historic tragedies. Veteran journalist Isabel Kershner portrays their conflict from the bottom up—through the eyes and voices of Palestinians and Israelis on both sides of the barrier. If you can only read one book about this conflict, this is it: It is brilliant and unique."

— Samuel Lewis, U.S. Ambassador to Israel under Presidents Carter and Reagan, and former President, United States Institute of Peace

"Kershner carefully and humanely shows how the wall built by Ariel Sharon's government has not only exposed divisions but also created them—physically, politically and psychologically."—Washington Post Book World

Publishers Weekly
One of the effects of the highly controversial barrier being erected by Israel between itself and Occupied Palestine has been the creation of a weird nether-world dubbed "the Seam Zone," which Jerusalem Report editor Kerchner describes with both compassion and coherence. Using numerous interviews and impressive legwork, Kerchner conveys both the tragic necessity of a physical separation to shield Israelis from terrorism, as well as the bureaucratic nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions the arbitrary divide represents for the Palestinians caught on the wrong side as they are subjected to a barrage of hardships, humiliations and expropriations. Kerchner follows a plethora of protagonists, including academics, military fence planners, disillusioned kibbutzniks, Arab farmers cut off from their olive groves, Israeli antiwall activists and the parents of Arab "martyrs" who applaud their murderous progeny but crave peace with their Jewish neighbors. Her diligence pays off, and the rigorous in-the-field reporting and simple human empathy of this engrossing study more than makes up for a few easy generalizations on one or two contentious issues. Her volume provides stunning insights into the latest, and perhaps most potent, symbol of the impasse the Arab-Israeli peace process has lumbered into since the promising Oslo Accords over a decade ago. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Border walls are nothing new. But whereas some have come tumbling down in recent years, one is rising in Israel-and, as with most things there, is a source of conflict. Jerusalem Report editor Kershner travels the 375-mile length of the barrier separating the Palestinians of the West Bank from their Israeli neighbors, reporting on what she finds along the way, little of it cause for hope. The barrier, mostly of wire fence but also of concrete and steel, divides land and people. Palestinians regard it as "a new blight on the landscape," proof of apartheid and their unwelcome status in the new Israel. Israeli Arabs tend to favor the fence, "believing it to provide the clearest definition yet of their permanent status as citizens of the state." And, by Kershner's account, Israelis of left and right see the need for the barrier as a deterrent to terrorism, and particularly suicide bombers, although thus far it has not proved very effective. There are other reasons for it; says one thoughtful kibbutzim, "We need a fence . . . to put limits on the occupation in the Jewish mind." The need for such a wall is debatable, Kershner suggests, but building it has been a priority for the government of Ariel Sharon, who ordered that the fence not follow the Green Line marking Israel's 1967 border, as he had promised; instead, it zigzags in and out of Palestinian territory, even cutting off some Palestinian villages while protecting Israeli settler communities on the West Bank. One such instance, Kershner writes, "became a showcase of Israeli irrationality at home and abroad" when the barrier-built at a cost of about $3 million per mile-was pulled down and relocated on the Green Line. Other portions stillmark not that line, however, but what Kershner calls the "seam zone" between Israelis and Palestinians. "Fences have so far not made for good neighbors," Kershner concludes. A revealing report.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403968012
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/2005
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Isabel Kershner is Senior Editor, Middle East, The Jerusalem Report and lives in Jerusalem. She has written for The New Republic and provided commentary on Middle East affairs on radio, including BBC.

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Table of Contents

The Stolen Sunset

• Paradise Lost

• The Bulldozer

• Arafat's Intifada

• Right Vs Right

• The Holy Seam

• The Big Prison / Gaza Syndrome

• Beyond the Pale

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2005

    Great Book!!

    I have never read such a comprehensive analysis of day by day life between Palestinians and Israeli citizens. After reading this book, now I can say I really understand how deep the Middle East conflict is. Isabel Kershner managed to give a very transparent and clear picture of the reallities in that part of the world. You don't have to be a scholar to be able to read this book. I recomend it to any person who whants to have update information about what is going on in the Israeli-Arab conflict. Superb writing.

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